In 2005, SDI Technologies had a surprise hit with its iPod-compatible clock radio, the $99 iHome iH5. Expanding on that success, the company has a new line of iPod-dockable audio systems, which includes the $149 SDI iHome iH36, a clock radio that's designed to fit under a cabinet in your kitchen.
For better or worse, the first thing you have to be willing to do is drill four holes in a cabinet to mount the iH36. A template makes it easy to drill holes in the right place, and while we didn't go to the trouble of mounting the system, the process seems straightforward enough if you have the requisite tools. The obvious advantage is that it saves you precious counter space.
Overall, the iH36 is a pretty well designed product. It's attractively styled, and both color schemes--it's available in all white (iH36W) or silver and white (iH36S)--should match up well enough with most modern kitchens. One nice aspect of the design is the retractable iPod dock, which slides out and tilts down at the press of a button on the iH36. To make sure that your particular iPod fits snugly in the drawer, you get three different inserts and a rubber pad; it should work with any dockable iPod.
We're also happy to report that iPod Shuffle isn't excluded from the party--there's a USB port on the iH36's underside that accepts the iPod Shuffle. However--and unfortunately--you can't attach any old USB thumbdrive filled with MP3s; the system recognizes only the Shuffle. It's also worth pointing out that the iH36 will not control your Shuffle. To play songs, you have to use the buttons on the Shuffle. (The iH36 may very well work with the just-announced "money clip" second-generation Shuffle, but because that model's USB jack is at the end of its docking/recharge cord, it'll be a less elegant solution than that offered by the all-in-one form factor of the original first-generation Shuffle.)
You can choose from five different modes of operation: FM1, FM2, TV (to tune into audio-only broadcasts of local stations), the weather band, and, of course, the iPod. AM is a no-show, which could certainly frustrate sports- and talk-radio fans. While the system offers only four preset stations per mode, having FM1 and FM2 means you really have a total of eight FM presets at your disposal, plus four each for TV and weather. We also appreciated the built-in cooking timer that can be set to one-minute intervals ranging from 1 to 120 minutes. A buzzer sounds once the timer has counted down.